Your heart: It’s the engine that helps your body function and allows you to enjoy all life has to offer — from favorite activities to relationships with friends and family members. This February, celebrate this amazing organ during National Heart Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women every year. Destiny Howe, manager of the cath lab at AdventHealth Gordon, talks about five key numbers that influence your heart health — and what you can do to keep them where they need to be.
1. Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart failure and stroke. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure can cause blockages in the arteries, reducing the flow of oxygen to the heart and making it work harder.
“You can work to keep your blood pressure levels low and avoid heart problems at any age,” said Howe. “High blood pressure makes your heart muscle work harder, which is how people end up with congestive heart failure.”
Below are the American Heart Association’s guidelines for blood pressure and treatment.
- Normal: Under 120/80
- Elevated: 120-129/80
- Stage 1 Hypertension: 130-139/80-89
- Stage 2 Hypertension: Higher than 140/90
Your doctor will help you understand what these new targets mean for you and if any treatment is necessary. Treatment may include a heart-healthy diet, more physical activity or medication to help control your blood pressure.
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance that is found in the body and produced in the liver and other cells. It can also come from eating foods that are high in fat. High levels of cholesterol can cause blockages of the arteries, potentially leading to a heart attack.
A desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). An annual blood test can monitor your levels and help your doctor make recommendations tailored to your health.
3. Blood Sugar
High blood sugar levels may indicate that you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, two conditions that can greatly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease.
A normal blood sugar level after fasting is 100 mg/dL.
4. Body Mass Index (BMI)
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for many life-threatening diseases, including diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Your BMI is a calculation based on your height and weight and can indicate whether you are overweight or obese.
People are considered overweight starting at a BMI of 25 and obese at 30 or higher.
5. Calcium Scoring
“Calcium scoring is a CT scan that examines the amount of calcium in your heart and gives you a score that predicts your risk of having a heart attack. It's a great way to be able to know how healthy your heart is without having to undergo a heart cath procedure,” said Howe.
A calcium score can be ordered by your primary care physician, or you can call radiology scheduling at AdventHealth Gordon at Call706-434-8519 to make an appointment if you have the following risk factors:
- Family history of heart disease
- Past or present smoker
- History of high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure
- Inactive lifestyle
- If you are less than 40 years old and high cholesterol runs in your family.
Get Personalized Guidance from Your Doctor
Fifteen minutes is all it takes to save a life. That’s how long it takes to get a simple health screening that gives you the information you need to live a heart-healthy life. Talk to your primary care provider about what preventive measures or screenings are right for you.
Your doctor can also assess your heart health at your annual physical, an important part of managing your whole health. It’s just one of many reasons you should see a doctor in times of both health and wellness.
Starting at age 20, visit your doctor for heart-health screenings. If you need a primary care physician, please visit GeorgiaPCPExperts.com.
Heart Care in Northwest Georgia
If you need a heart care specialist, our Northwest Georgia network includes cardiology and vascular experts who know how to treat your condition in the most effective, least invasive way possible. Our connected cardiovascular network is here to take care of your heart so you’re ready for the road ahead.
To learn more about heart care at AdventHealth in Northwest Georgia, visit GeorgiaHeartExperts.com.
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